Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)


Years ago –many years indeed- in England, three men were pouring into a trough a mixture of water, sand, lime and other ingredients. A passer-by asked them what they were doing. The first said, "I am making mortar." The second: "I am laying bricks." But the third said, "I am building a cathedral." They were doing the same thing, but each looked at it differently. And what a difference that made!

We can see something similar in the way people relate to their parish, why they give. One person says, "Oh! All they do down there is asking for money." The second person replies, "Well, you have to pay the bills." But the third person says, "I am building the Body of Christ." The three are doing the same thing, but what a difference in their attitudes!

Today's Scripture readings reflect those differences. Poor Job says that life is nothing but drudgery: If in bed I say, "When shall I arise?" then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn[1]. For sure, most of us can identify with Job however St. Paul takes a different approach. Few worked as hard as he did –or went through so many trials. Yet he says: I do so willingly...I have been entrusted with a stewardship.

And today's Gospel presents a fascinating example of stewardship: St. Peter's mother-in-law. She was in bed, sick, when her son-in-law brought unexpected guests. One of them, Jesus, went to her bedside, took her hand and she sat up. The fever subsided and, quote, she waited on them[2].

Now, some think she would have preferred to stay in bed. That viewpoint, however, says more about us that it does about that wonderful woman. For people in ancient times, hospitality was their top value. It was the glue that held their society together. For Peter's mother-in-law, hospitality was a sacred duty. But there is something more. The text says, She waited on them, and, you know, the Greek word for wait on them is diaconia -the root of our word deacon.

Jesus had touched her and healed her. To be his "deaconess" would be pure joy, a beautiful honor. Well, for each one of us is the same: serve God in the Church in the parish, is an honor, it is never a burden. Serving God in ministry is a blessing, not a heavy and boring duty.

St. Paul illustrates very well the joy of service. With no fanfare without expectations, he says that he is free –and few have greater inner freedom than Paul. Nevertheless, says Paul, I have become a slave to all[3]. He knew that freedom is not licentiousness, doing whatever strikes a person's fancy. Real freedom means service, self-giving. Someone who doesn’t know –or does not want- how to serve in life, is not useful in life.

We are in an election season in the United States[4]. Different candidates will be telling us they have the solution to our problems, but there is one word we are not likely to hear – the "S" word. The "S" word that we avoid is…sacrifice. As Christians, however, we cannot avoid that word; we have to embrace it. Jesus and St. Paul tell us that our time, our abilities, our financial resources do not belong to us. They come from God – and he will require an accounting – a stewardship.

For that reason, we do not give time and money grudgingly; we are building the Body of Christ. With St. Paul we can say, I do so willingly...I have been entrusted with a stewardship


[1] Cfr Jb 7:1-4, 6-7.
[2] Cfr Mk 1:29-39
[3] 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23.
[4] The United States presidential election of 2012 is the next United States presidential election, to be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. It will be the 57th quadrennial presidential election in which presidential electors, who will actually elect the President and the Vice President of the United States on December 17, 2012, will be chosen. Incumbent President Barack Obama is running for a second and final term during this election. The 2012 presidential election will coincide with the United States Senate elections where 33 races will be occurring as well as the United States House of Representatives elections to elect the members for the 113th Congress. The election will also encompass eleven gubernatorial races as well as many state legislature races.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris